Yvonne Castillo, formerly the Public Policy Strategist at The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the new head of Schinnerer’s risk management program, recently reported that the AIA, in conjunction with the National Council of Public Private Partnerships and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), has developed a significant briefing source for information about the general history, advantages/disadvantages, and state status of public private partnerships. It is a “web brief” housed on the NCSL website.
Even with well-documented needs for new and restored infrastructure at the state and local level, government entities have been reluctant to find funding resources to return current infrastructure to acceptable levels and to create new projects that enable economic growth and local development. Facing sizable budgetary shortfalls, a stock of aging infrastructure, and no political will to enact funding mechanisms, governments are increasingly turning over their control to private concessionaires through public private partnerships (P3) for the funding, construction and operation of facilities.
From the perspective of America’s design professionals, these P3 organizations can generate significant professional design opportunities. But the P3 project delivery and control mechanism can also:
- create “private law” through their contractual authority that forces design firms to provide guarantees of the results of the design services;
- force design firms to remain “on the risk” for decades after the firms would normally be protected from claims; and
- place the interests of the private operator over those of the public, thus challenging the ethics of licensed design professionals.
As P3s increasingly become the solution to political inaction, the more design firms know about the process the better positioned they will be to fashion their preferred future in this new project delivery system.